I vividly remember bringing my daughter home from the hospital. I was so nervous and scared. I point blank asked my husband, Why on earth do they think we’re capable of raising a child? And in this postpartum, hormonally topsy-turvy state, I decided that I needed to do everything. I needed to get up with her at all hours. I needed to change every diaper. I needed to let my husband sleep because he had the real job that required his brain firing on all cylinders. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was when motherhood is lonely.
When motherhood is lonely, you feel isolated from the world. You feel this crushing ache of desperation because you have to be the one pulling it altogether for everyone and every thing. When motherhood is lonely, you feel the tumultuous din of the outside world, so busy and noisy and angry, and here’s this precious little baby that you just want to keep safe and tidy.
When motherhood is lonely, sometimes we need to recognize our feelings as very real, very viable issues that you need to talk about.
I remember when I went back to work, and I was so mad and sad that I had to leave my baby girl after 8 short weeks. I cried on the way to work. I broke speed limits on the way home. I sobbed on Sunday nights because all I wanted was to hold this precious daughter. My boss at the time (and for the record, let me say that he is truly an exceptional man, and I value him as my mentor) gently suggested that I talk to another young mother in my company to see how she adapted to work outside of the home.
Nuh uh. No way. No how.
First of all, I didn’t feel like sharing with her (I hardly felt like sharing with my boss!). Second of all, if for one second I let on that I was not adapting well (and obviously I was working on fooling everyone around me), I felt like the world was going to come crashing down.
For me, that is when motherhood is lonely.
Motherhood loneliness – for me at least – came from creating this representative (h/t to Glennon Doyle Melton) who was Pinterest perfect while the real me was inside, almost suffocating from this pressurized vacuum that was sucking the life out of me to be ME.
Y’all. It was not fun.
These days, I’m committed to being a little more open, a little more honest about how motherhood feels. Oftentimes, I find when I share these feelings, there’s another mom who sighs, relaxes and says, Oh, thank God. Someone else feels the same way.
So what worked for me? What helped pull me out of this heart-breaking loneliness?
1. Finding an online community
For me, it was easier to vent and share and cry and commiserate with women whom I had never met. The women I met through Attached Parents at Work (more on why I chose attachment parenting here) became my sounding boards and my community. I could type up a question while awake in the wee hours, fretting over a cough or a sniffle. I could moan about my husband’s snoring when he didn’t hear the baby cry (all true – he sleeps through virtually all of it!).
Is an in-person village preferable? Absolutely. Will an online community work in a pinch? Indubitably.
2. Mother other mothers.
With exceptionally deep gratitude, I still remember one of my mom’s best friends coming to our house in our early parenthood days with pounds of brisket and quarts of sides. I had a ravenous breastfeeding appetite, and I couldn’t wait to sit and eat. Without holding a flopping newborn.
My mom’s best friend mothered me so tenderly and wonderfully for those precious hours. She took my sweet, precious girl into the other room, snuggled with her as if my daughter were her granddaughter, sang softly to her while I ate unencumbered for 30 minutes.
To that end, I try – but may not always succeed – at helping to take care of other mothers. Food, an ear, a late night text… when motherhood is lonely, we’re all waiting for someone else to reach out.
3. Be vulnerable.
Brené Brown is far better at explaining vulnerability than I, although we could both definitely espouse that vulnerability is such a great showing of bravery. It means that you’ve broken down these shields and are moving towards becoming a more wholehearted person.
What shields? In her interview with The Telegraph, they are explained thusly:
Brown believes there are three shields we use to protect ourselves from vulnerability: perfectionism (doing everything perfectly); numbing (using alcohol, drugs, food or work to deaden true feeling); and ‘foreboding joy’, the dread that kills happiness.
Did you notice a pattern when I talked about when motherhood is lonely? To me, it feels like the ultimate shield from vulnerability… and the ultimate time that I needed someone braver than I to pull me out.
If you’ve been reading along, you know I don’t have any of this figured out. I’m still in the same boat, rocking along, trying to plug the holes to cross the rocky sea. But 5+ years into motherhood, I’d like to think I’ve learned a little bit. But if you need a hand or an ear, let me know. I’ll be brave enough for the both of us right now.
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